It is the middle of August, a period some regard as the summer doldrums. 

Here, we engage ourselves with the recriminations over a completely botched exit from Afghanistan, hardly a testimonial to the supposed return of government competence. Our tired debates over masks go on ad nauseum. Many are figuring out how to get a third shot of vaccine while others refuse a first. 

A diminishing few show no end to their capacity for personal disgrace by persisting in beating the “stolen election” drum. All the while, Congress argues about ways to spend additional trillions it does not have. 

In Colorado, this fall’s ballot issue campaigns have yet to really launch. The political class bites its nails as the redistricting commissions have the finish line in sight. Residents from all corners have come to realize that Mother Nature usually gets the last word and the Colorado Constitution does not include a clause guaranteeing the right to drive from Denver to Grand Junction in under four hours. 

Our Colorado Rockies manage to win roughly four out of every nine games. While endless words are expended on an underwhelming quarterback battle for the right to lead the Broncos to what is likely even a lesser winning percentage. 

It is summertime, indeed. The typical debates and sideshows vie for attention as many tune it all out, opting to focus instead on milking the last drops out of the remaining weeks of heat, hot dogs, hiking and long, active days of outdoor fun. 

All the while, halfway across the globe, a ruthlessly authoritarian regime is brutally oppressing a segment of its own citizenry based on nothing more than their ethnic and religious identity. 

Not content just to violate its own word in Hong Kong and rattle the sabers ever louder with respect to Taiwan, on top of the steadily ramped-up repression of its own huge population mass, the Chinese authorities (as in “authoritarian”) are now eight years into a concerted campaign of barbarity against its Uyghur citizens. 

The civilized world has seen this play too many times over the last century. From Stalin’s Russia to Hitler’s expansionist, Aryan Germany to Mao’s cultural revolution to the killing fields of Cambodia to the fratricide of Rwanda and the massacres in Kosovo, it is a scene we have come to know all too well. By no means is that a complete list. 

Time and again, much of the world has underreacted. Concern is expressed; resolutions are passed; condemnations are issued; modest aid packages are assembled; a smattering of refugees may be admitted here or there. 

But the response is rarely up to the moment. Bill Clinton has more than once talked of his lack of assertive intervention in Rwanda as one of the major regrets of his presidency. 

Uyghurs are an ethnic population of roughly 13.5 million people. More than 90 percent live within China’s borders, mainly in the far northwest region of Xinjiang. Their religion is a moderate form of Sunni Islam. 

Since 2013, the crackdown on Uyghurs has been of growing intensity and taken various forms. China’s surveillance technology, scarily robust most places, is particularly pervasive in Uyghur communities. Female headscarves and other traditional Muslim garb have been banned. The tradition of daytime fasting during Ramadan has been prohibited. 

“Convenience police stations,” an innocent-sounding government moniker for police-run gangpens, are cropping up in village after village. These “stations” have watchtowers with abundant cameras to record anyone entering or leaving the village. Those staffing these places can and do inspect any resident’s digital devices at any time. 

The screws are turned ever tighter. More than a million Uyghurs are reported to have been sent to “reeducation camps” or detained against their will for “vocational training." Tens of thousands have disappeared without a trace. 

Those with a strong stomach might read the first-person account in The Atlantic by a famous Uyghur poet who escaped and now drives for Uber in suburban Washington, D.C. It is deeply sad and harrowing stuff. 

In a country of 1.45 billion people, one might wonder as to the supposed threat posed by fewer than 13 million Uyghurs. That is not even a rounding error in China’s total population. 

But the region is rich in gold and uranium, precious commodities in a country far from done with its rapid economic expansion. Located along the ancient Silk Road, Xinjiang now has strategic importance in the context of China’s ultra-ambitious Belt and Road Initiative. 

If what has befallen the Uyghurs at China’s hands is not a full-scale genocide, it certainly qualifies as a cultural slaughter, carried out with the intent of wiping away the traditions, security and autonomy of an honorable people. 

Also, let us not forget that previous genocides had plenty of introductory chapters, each one dialing up the persecution and tightening the controls, before the onset of the full-scale bloodbath. 

The United States and our allies are clearly limited in what we can do. We are not about to go marching into the regional capital of Urumqi, much less Beijing. Last week’s inept and tragic scenes from Kabul hardly strike fear in the hard hearts of our adversaries.  

While it is the case that we cannot do everything, it does not follow that we cannot do anything. We may not be able to rescue millions of Uyghurs, but we can apply diplomatic and economic pressure, and speak with unequivocal clarity. 

What if Apple decided to assemble its iPhones elsewhere? If Boeing dramatically reduced its sale of aircraft to China? If Nike dialed back on its Chinese affections, with its CEO having embarrassingly declared just this summer, “Nike is a brand that is of China and for China”?   

Under the heading of “hope springs eternal”, maybe LeBron James could turn from appeaser to savior by conducting a basketball camp in Xinjiang instead of obsessively pandering with his lips implanted on the hind quarters of forever-President Xi and his bullies. 

Far too often, Americans have pushed genocides far from home to the recesses of our minds. What if this time was different in keeping the Uyghurs front and center in our thinking and actions? 

Eric Sondermann is a Colorado-based independent political commentator. He writes regularly for Colorado Politics and the Denver Gazette. Reach him at; follow him at @EricSondermann